Celebrating Diversity

Among Graduate Students and Postdocs

Marcos Negrete

What is your name and role at Duke?

My name is Marcos Negrete and I’m a researcher scholar in Biomedical Engineering Department.

What are you studying in your research at Duke?

My main focus in research is studying human cancer and mouse intestinal organoids. Basically, for mouse intestinal organoids, I collect the cells and seed them for experiments that other lab members run for their projects.

For human cancer organoids, I am helping to one Ph.D. student with her project. She is testing different antagonist and drugs for FGR1 and OTR genes. The main goal is to understand how these antagonist and drugs affect both genes.

Where are you from originally? How did you end up at Duke?

I’m from Ecuador. In 2015 (December), I finished my college in Honduras. I moved back home trying to find a job. For that moment my country had an economic recession and many companies fired a lot of people and getting a job was difficult for me because I didn’t have the experience that all companies were asking.

When finally, I got my first job as a Postharvest Manager in a roses farm. A good friend of mine (Lucas Rocha) told me about the opportunity to come and do an internship. To come to Duke was a tough decision for me because I was just got a job and only after 3 months, I quit my job and took the decision to come.

In the beginning, my PI was looking for only one person and unfortunately, I was not chosen. All the other applicants received a notice that they were not selected but I did not get any notice. One week later from my interview, my PI sent me an email asking if I am still interested to do an internship and obviously my answer was a big YES. Now, here I am.

What sort of career to you hope to have after finishing at Duke?

As my bachelor’s degree is in Food Science (Agroindustry Engineer) and I have been learning about Biomedical aspects. My plan is to get into Grad School soon and achieve my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering.

How did you develop an interest in diversity?

I am interested in diversity because I have the chance to meet new people, learn about other cultures, show my customs to other and have a double learning path from others. Moreover, it helps me to remember we are different human being with many histories to share.

What role did race play in your upbringing and academic career?

Most of my life I have spent in Ecuador due to this when I was at high school my main role was to be part of the soccer team.

Additional of that, during my college I was part of clubs like the Open Bible, sports club (soccer) and hospitality club. I represented my country (dancing) in a Pan American Party celebrated every year in my university. I was the first student who organized a 5K race (Run 4 Life) and after that every year one student is responsible to organize at least one fitness event. Finally, I helped my colleagues with tutorials in all the classes and I did one triathlon where I got the third place.

Basically, my role is summarized in promoting three things: academia, health, and social aspect. 

How would you characterize Duke as far as diversity is concerned?

Duke is pretty good in diversity concerned because you have many options where you can learn from other cultures (social events). Also, you can find people are from Asia, Latin America or Europe.

What organizations have you been involved with at Duke related to diversity?

I have been involved in programs from International House such as Spanish Club Conversation, Language Partner, English Club Conversation and Global Café.

Besides those programs, one thing that has helped me a lot in diversity is soccer. Playing soccer has given me the opportunity to meet people from other countries.

What have been some of the biggest surprises to you since coming to Duke?

One of my biggest surprises was the infrastructures (facilities) and the resources that Duke has around the whole campus. In Ecuador, it’s impossible to find a university like Duke.

Another surprise was how serious all the students take when Duke Basketball team plays against UNC, it’s one of the most important days in the calendar.

What are some of the key cultural differences you have noticed between living in the US and living in Ecuador?

First of all, the food is one of the big cultural difference and I say this because back home I have fresh fruit like papaya, mangoes, bananas and other fruit and vegetables and they are cheaper.

Greeting people at home you usually kiss the cheek when it is a woman but here you shake hands and it does not matter if it is a woman or man. Always, you have to shake hands.

The parties are quite different. Here is more like talking and socialize (drink) but at home is more about dancing and drinking.

What has been your favorite part about living in the US?

The opportunity to improve my English because one of my life’s goal is to speak English. Another favorite part is to do research and learn new things every day.

Maybe the most important question: What are some good latino cuisine restaurants in the Durham area that you would recommend?

Any question with food is always a good question. I would say Mi Peru, Guasaca and Cosmic Cantina are my top restaurants.

What changes would you like to see in the Duke community as far as diversity is concerned?

I would like to see more events that involve sports because for me it is the best way to meet new people and make new friends from different parts of the world. An example of a sporting event could be a triathlon.

How could you encourage more people of diversity to join science?

Doing an internship is a good start to get some experience and have an idea how science looks. Another important thing to do is contact people who are already involved in science and get some advice and listen how science has changed their life.

Do you have any advice for incoming international students or students interested in getting involved in diverse groups?

To be open to learn and have a new experience that will help them to grow as a human being in different aspects of generosity, respect, friendship and the most important to be tolerant of other folks.